The Daniel Nathans Memorial Award was established in 2000 to honor the memory of Dr. Daniel Nathans, a distinguished member of the scientific community and a founding member of Van Andel Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors. During his tenure, Dr. Nathans suffered from cancer and, in 1999, sadly, he succumbed to this disease. Dr. Nathans was a superb scientist and a very special individual. He studied an important early virus model system for cancer, the SV40 virus, which has become a powerful scientific tool. Dr. Nathans, using a restriction enzyme from his colleague Ham Smith that would cleave DNA at a specific DNA sequence, cut SV40 DNA into precise fragments. With this simple experiment, he provided the world with a gateway to recombinant DNA and a result that stimulated the field that is now called genomics. In recognition of his achievements, Dr. Nathans was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize, which he shared with his colleague Hamilton O. Smith and Swiss microbiologist Werner Arber.
The Daniel Nathans Award, conferred by Van Andel Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors, recognizes individuals who emulate Dr. Nathans and his contributions to biomedical and cancer research. The awardee’s contributions must be far reaching and significantly benefit public health.